Heroes Beyond Hockey

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Tad O’Had, associate head coach of the Florida Everblades, supports fighters on and off the ice.

Heroes Beyond Hockey

Being involved in hockey as a player and as a youth, junior and pro coach of the Everblades, O’Had knows the value of fighting and persevering.

“I spend every day
with men trained to battle on the ice,” he said. “I have found
that you never know the true meaning of strength until the moment you
are met with adversity. Strength has very little to do with the
weight you move or the time you score. Strength is endured through
the ability to show up and battle.”

Heroes Beyond Hockey

Four years ago,
O’Had faced a fight of his own when he was diagnosed with Chronic
Myeloid Leukemia, an uncommon type of blood-cell cancer that
originates in the bone marrow. Receiving that news totally changed
his perspective.

“I realized how fortunate I am, and I worked on growing and persevering,” he said, noting he is now in remission. “I’m thankful for the progress I have made, the people that have helped me get here and that I’m on the road to good health.”

For his birthday in
February, he decided to give back to the community that has supported
him.

Heroes Beyond Hockey

Through a
partnership between the Florida Everblades and Golisano Children’s
Hospital of Southwest Florida that includes the annual teddy bear
toss to collect stuffed animals for children at the hospital, O’Had
and team members met some of the children and their families and
heard their struggles.

“Golisano
Children’s Hospital is a place that embodies what it means to be
strong,” he said. “Seeing these kids in pain was heartbreaking,
but also very humbling. Their perseverance is inspiring.”

Heroes Beyond Hockey

To honor these courageous kids and to encourage donations to the hospital, he decided to challenge himself physically the day before his 39th birthday. Months in advance, he planned and trained to row, bike and run 39 miles and complete 3,900 weight repetitions. He sent emails to 39 people who have influenced him throughout his life, thanking them and asking them to support the hospital.

Throughout his
challenge, O’Had checked in with Everblades trainer Chris Emrick to
be accountable and make sure he didn’t get injured.

Heroes Beyond Hockey

“To say I was
exhausted is an understatement, but no matter how hard that day was
for me, it pales in comparison to what those kids are going through,”
he said. “When you look at a child who is hurting or receiving
lifesaving care, and they’re doing it with a smile on their face,
it’s truly inspiring. I find a great deal of strength in that.”

Through the
generosity of friends, family and players, he raised well over his
target of $3,900 for Golisano Children’s Hospital.

“I
think the biggest thing we need to do as members of the community is
to show compassion and provide service to one another,” he said.
“We may never understand the struggles that others are undergoing
around us, but by supporting organizations like Golisano Children’s
Hospital, we are impacting the youth of the community and possibly
saving a life. If you can help at any level, you should. It’s the
right thing to do.”

O’Had credits his
mother Cheryl Gnojek with his drive to help others. He’s not sure
what he’ll be doing for his birthday next year, but he’s grateful
for the opportunity to support Golisano Children’s Hospital this
year.

To learn how you can
help, visit LeeHealthFoundation.org/Golisano.

Heroes Beyond Hockey

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